Abstract: Despite the general consensus regarding the critical role of top management in the information systems (ISs) implementation process, the literature has not yet provided a clear and compelling understanding of the top management support (TMS) concept. Applying metastructuring (Orlikowski et al., 1995) as a guiding framework for understanding TMS behaviors, this paper attempts to address the gap by focusing on two key questions: (1) What supportive actions do top managers engage in during IS implementations? (2) How do these actions affect IS implementation outcomes? Analyses of in-depth case studies at two Canadian universities that had implemented a large-scale enterprise system revealed three distinct types of TMS actions: TMS – resource provision (TMSR – actions related to supplying key resources such as funds, technologies, staff, and user training programs); TMS – change management (TMSC – actions related to fostering organizational receptivity of a new IS); and TMS – vision sharing (TMSV – actions related to ensuring that lower-level managers develop a common understanding of the core objectives and ideals for the new system). Results suggest that different support behaviors exercise different influences on implementation outcomes, and that top managers need to adjust their support actions to achieve the desired outcomes. In particular, TMSR affected project completion, TMSC impacted formation of user skills and attitudes, and TMSV influenced middle manager buy-in. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.
Findings: Different support behaviors exercise different influences on implementation outcomes. Top managers need to adjust their support actions to achieve the desired outcomes. In particular, TMSR affected project completion, TMSC impacted formation of user skills and attitudes, and TMSV influenced middle manager buy-in.
Implications: (1) Real change was impacted by practical, active relational behaviors by managers (actions speak louder than words). (2) Successful leaders actively sought out and listened to feedback from others, and adjusted their supportive behaviors accordingly (e.g., according to individuals “readiness” level). (3) Effective top managers did not assume their employees were aware of their support — they publicly and consistently demonstrate their determination, vision, appreciation.
Citation: Dong, L., Neufeld, D.J., & Higgins, C.A. (2009). Top management support of enterprise systems implementations: Two cases. Journal of Information Technology 24(1), pp. 46-54. [link]